15 Sep



The Museum of Fine Arts’ wonderful new film series Meals on Reels, pulled together with help from some of Houston’s finest chefs, may be the closest thing we get to dinner and a show without any calories.

The basic idea for Meals on Reels was to add a theme to the already-popular annual series called, not unpersuasively, Movies Houstonians Love. And all the time the committee in charge wrestled with that notion, our culture’s obsession with restaurants, food and chefs kept coming up. There is, of course, Julie and Julia in theaters as we speak, along with chef-centric programs all over the TV, from silly showbiz like Iron Chef to personal statements by the bad-boy likes of Anthony Bourdain and Gordon Ramsey.

So, the notion came down to this: Let’s ask a group of Houston’s best chefs what movies they love, presuming such movies would have something between a little and a lot to do with food. The committee decided, the committee invited – and the committee has not been disappointed. Several chefs, in fact, picked the same great films, in which case they had to be reminded of a very old restaurant concept: First come, first served.

“This year is the first time that Movies Houstonians Love has been themed, and the film committee couldn’t have picked a timelier subject,” offers MFAH film curator Marian Luntz. “As films like Julie & Julia and Food, Inc., reality television series like Top Chef, and bestselling books such as Fast Food Nation and The Omnivore’s Dilemma are met with increasing interest and popularity, it would seem that the food industry has captured the collective American imagination.”

Yes, you heard that last part right. The chefs themselves will introduce their chosen films, each on a different night beginning with Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner on Sept. 21 and running all the way to Food, Inc. on May 10. All the films are being screened in Brown Auditorium Theater, with a pricetag of $7 each. Special door prizes will be given out at each screening. A discount season pass is available for purchase at museum ticket desks, for $60 (general public) and $55 (MFAH members, senior adults, and students) and provides admission to all nine films.

Here is the schedule of Houston chefs presenting their favorite films:

Marcus Davis’s Favorite Film: Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? Monday, September 21, 7 p.m. Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy play parents whose attitudes towards race are tested when their engaged daughter introduces them to her black fiancé (Sidney Poitier).

Irma Galvan’s Favorite Film: Tortilla Soup Monday, October 26, 7 p.m. A Hispanic-American chef (Hector Elizondo) with three grown daughters cooks lovely meals, but has lost his taste for food since his wife’s death. When a widow sets her eyes on the chef, will he be able to regain his lust for life?

Michael Kramer’s Favorite Film: Big Night Monday, November 30, 7 p.m. Two Italian brothers immigrate to New Jersey in the mid-1950s and open an authentic Italian restaurant, only to be snubbed by the locals (who prefer Italian food made American style). The brothers host one big banquet to impress their guests. Starring Tony Shalhoub, Stanley Tucci, Minnie Driver, and Isabella Rossellini.

Anita Jaisinghani’s Favorite Film: Mostly Martha (Bella Martha) Tuesday, January 5, 7 p.m. A workaholic, German chef, Martha, is shocked when her young niece loses her mother in a car wreck and shows up on her doorstep. The obsessive cook must take a break from her upscale restaurant and devote some time to her willful new ward.

Scott Tycer’s Favorite Film: La Grande Bouffe 7 p.m. Monday, January 25. In this decadent and depraved masterpiece, four friends hole up in a Parisian villa to eat themselves to death.

Robert del Grande’s Favorite Film: Who’s Killing the Great Chefs of Europe? 7 p.m. Monday, February 22. A serial killer is on the loose, targeting the great European chefs. A top American cook, however, may be next in line—unless she can stop the killer with the help of her ex-husband.

Armando Palacios’s Favorite Film: Super Size Me Monday, March 29, 7 p.m. Documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock uses himself as a guinea pig, subsisting on a fast-food diet and examining the impact on his health.  

Charles Clark’s Favorite Film: Babette’s Feast 7 p.m. Monday, April 26. An Academy Award-winner for Best Foreign Language Film, this art house hit is set in Denmark and features two spinster sisters who hire a war refugee, Babette, to work for them in a Calvinist settlement. When Babette cooks up a decadent feast for the local elders, will the effects of the meal liberate the sisters? 

Monica Pope’s Favorite Film: Food, Inc. 7 p.m. Monday, May 10. Featuring interviews with such experts as Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation) and Michael Pollan (The Omnivore’s Dilemma, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto), Food, Inc. reveals surprising—and often shocking truths—about what we eat, how it’s produced, who we have become as a nation and where we are going from here. Filmmaker Robert Kenner lifts the veil on our nation’s food industry, exposing the highly mechanized underbelly that has been hidden from the American consumer.


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